Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 23/02/16

Doctored News?

I have had cause to remark before that, in what describes itself as a 'free' society, the manner in which the 'right' messages are promoted by the Úlites of politics, commerce and media have to be somewhat less direct, somewhat less obvious than in overt tyrannies. It is not necessarily that those Úlites have a higher regard for the intelligence of the public than their less open-minded equivalents; by and large, they don't. It's simply the greater risk of having their deviousness, their obfuscations, their misdirections pointed out which makes them rather shy of the more naked forms of propaganda.

And so a more oblique strategy has to be deployed, and it usually manifests itself in the form of the use of certain words in certain ways in certain contexts which seek to convey what those in power over us would have us believe or assume.

So it is that an autocrat somewhere else in the world who is on 'our' side may be described in the media as a 'strongman', whereas one who is not deemed to be 'one of us' (and who, indeed, may not actually be an autocrat at all) may be denoted a 'dictator' or, at best, a 'populist'. Similarly, any figure in world politics whose policy positions - especially on the subject of economics - could be viewed with alarm by those wedded to the prevailing near-religious orthodoxy may safely be designated an 'extremist' or, more damningly still, as being 'unrealistic'.

And those of us who point out the deliberate dishonesty with which these tricks may be played can always be neutralised by the use of other words and phrases, such as 'crank', 'conspiracy loon', 'tin-foil-hat brigade', and so on.

Sometimes, of course, words themselves are not needed at all. As a single picture can be deemed to have a value of 1 Kiloword, an image can often be far more effective in a far more immediate way than mere text could hope to be. Examples of this usage are common enough, but I thought I'd just point out one more from today.

The source is this piece from the ever-reliable BBC News website, reporting on the latest round in the English medical profession's battle with the malodorous Jeremy Rhyming-Slang:

Junior doctors set to hold more strikes

The piece itself is anodyne and factual enough, as are the images used in it. However, this is the image which was being used on the front page of the website earlier this afternoon:

Photo of a junior doctor at a demonstration

Now just look at that photograph for a moment. We have banners, placards, a megaphone...and in the centre, a man. A man who seems to tick all sorts of boxes if you want to present an unfavourable impression to those self-satisfied, self-important, middle-class entitlement junkies upon whom your media organisation's future and its remaining superficial legitimacy may depend:

Thus may the desired message, the devoutly-to-be-wished impression, be conveyed. And when one considers that research has shown clearly that the vast majority of people don't read beyond headlines (even on the pieces that they may have clicked through to actually read), it's a very economical way of doing it.

I don't think it is a mark of paranoia either to see things like this they way they may actually be, or to point them out when they arise. If you are going to find a path through the swamplands of contemporary cant, it must surely be an important and useful skill to be able to see what the road-signs are actually telling you rather than what they appear to be conveying. And being forewarned is to be fore-armed, especially with regard to supposedly 'impartial' sources such as the BBC, whose reputation for 'balance' - always over-stated in the eyes of anyone who has studied the historical and contemporary evidence beyond the rah-rah - seems to be typified by assuming that a broadcast discussion on the origins of the universe can only be considered to be 'balanced' if the three people on your panel are: a noted cosmologist or astrophysicist; a screaming, froth-lipped American fundamentalist (or, failing that, Melanie Phillips); and Nigel Farage (he gives such good 'tube', doesn't he?).

And I wouldn't want to make any great claims for the desirability - the necessity - of pointing these things out when they occur, or for my own efficacy in doing so when I say that minutes, literally minutes after I took the screen-shot shown above, the BBC replaced it with the photo which now adorns the top of the piece itself.

Constant vigilance must be our watch-words.

(* Though nowhere near as bad as those sported by the more fanatical followers of Mhmd, which often look like the results of a botched attempt at oral sex in a glue factory; or, as a colleague of mine once commented on another (non-Mslm) colleague who had attempted a beard to which he was somewhat ill-suited, "He looks as if he's smeared his face in Uhu and fallen face-first into a fanny!")